Equipment manager helps keep Lee sharp

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Equipment manager helps keep Lee sharp

Is it the tights? Is it the skates? Maybe it’s the blades. Yes, it could be the blades.

Short-track speed skater Lee Jung-su has won two gold medals in the men’s 1,000- and 1,500-meter events. Oh Sae-jong, 28, the team equipment manager who played a key role in the squad’s overachievement in Vancouver, is said to have been an important factor in Lee’s golden performances.

According to Lee’s father, Lee Do-won, Oh has been taking care of Lee’s blades ever since Oh won a gold medal in the men’s 5,000-meter relay event at the 2006 Turin Winter Games and retired from the sport. Oh joined the national speed skating team in Vancouver as the equipment manager, but he’s been helping Lee as a personal favor.

“In short-track speed skating, the condition of the blades determines 50 percent of wins,” Lee Do-won explained. “Most players get an idea of whether they can win by feeling out the condition of their blades during the warm-up before the actual race.

“Jung-su was able to go into the competition very satisfied with the condition of his blades, and he entered the finals confident. Oh played a big role.”

Former gold medalist and SBS commentator Chun Lee-kyung agreed, “The fact that Lee, with his frail physique, was able to withstand Apolo Anton Ohno’s rough style was largely due to the great condition of his skate blades.”

Lee and Oh’s collaboration can be traced back to 2006, when Lee was preparing for the World Junior Short-track Speed Skating Championships. It was a day before the start of competitions and Lee’s blades hadn’t been taken care of. Oh, who was standing nearby, offered to help.

The young skater went on to win gold in all his events except the 500-meter.

Lee started to seek out Oh prior to big competitions. Oh, for his part, saw Lee’s results improve with his help and moved near the skater’s home to become Lee’s full-time equipment manager. Oh had planned to return to Korea on Feb. 18 after helping the speed skating team, but he remained in Vancouver at Lee’s request.

In replacing three time gold-medalist Ahn Hyun-soo as the ace of the men’s short-track squad, Lee was in position to earn two more gold medals in the 500-meter and 5,000-meter relay events. However, the short-track team coaching staff decided to leave Lee out of the 500-meter event earlier this week.

Teammates Lee Ho-suk and Sung Si-bak and Kwak Yoon-gy will compete in the 500-meter quarterfinals today with the finals taking place with the semifinals and the finals taking place on Saturday. While tabbed as gold medal hopefuls, Lee Ho-suk and Sung have yet to place first in an individual event and the 500-meter event is their last shot.

Lee will be competing for his third gold medal of the Olympics at the 5,000-meter relay event, also today. But more importantly, he stated in an interview that he is focused on helping his teammates earn their first gold medals. Of course, Oh will be on hand to prep Lee’s blades.


By Kim Dong-hwan [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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